The Linguist

The Linguist 52,2

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES FUTURE EDITORS Daria Cybulska, of Wikimedia UK, teaches young people to edit Wikipedia CAROLINE BRESSEY VIA WIKIPEDIA (CC BY-SA 3.0) 'Our education is in English. That's why we use Wikipedia Yoruba to write about sport, science – everything!' read it, but I hope they will in the future. A lot of people in Nigeria speak Yoruba but we don't use written Yoruba very much. New books are published in English, education is in English, so Yoruba may be at risk. That's why we use Wikipedia Yoruba to write about sport, science, politics – everything!' Splinter projects have emerged too. With contacts he has made through Wikipedia, Fadipe is now working not only to preserve but also to extend the West African language, by creating new words and dictionaries. 'We are translating words that we didn't know before – scientific words, for example – introducing new ideas and concepts.' Online mentors Leigh Thelmadatter works with advanced-level students at Tec de Monterrey, Campus Ciudad de México, in Mexico City. 'I've been working with Wikipedia both personally and professionally since 2007,' says the American teacher. Frustrated by lecture-style language teaching, where 'there's the teacher at the front and students sitting in rows listening,' she looked for a more interactive approach. 'To get beyond intermediate level in another language, you need to use it.' Thelmadatter talks of 'authentic communication'; real conversations. 'Most people don't have the luxury of being able to move to another country in order to develop their language skills. The internet comes into play there.' Her T-shirt – emblazoned with the message 'Wikipedia belongs in education' – says it all. 'It's more than sitting down and writing articles,' she explains. 'Once I found out that I could interact with other Wikipedians, I thought "great!" There's your authentic communication – not only in the Vol/52 No/2 2013 writing of articles, but also in communicating with other people. For example, every person who has a Wikipedia account has a "talk page" where you can leave messages, find out who has worked on an article, and discuss their changes – or complain.' At school, Thelmadatter talked her bosses into letting her create a class working entirely in Wikipedia. 'One of the first things I did to prepare for that was to go on Wikipedia to find mentors for my students. I left messages on talk pages, and in the end about 15 Wikipedians participated, writing with my students in English about their projects.' The class drew mixed reactions, though. 'Wikipedia is demonised generally in the education system here because it's not created by academia, so it's not considered reliable or serious. Because of that, the first time I mention Wikipedia to students as something I want them to work with, they're confused.' In its deviation from the grammar and multiple choice tests they are used to, 'students say my class is a lot of work'. But it gets results. Thelmadatter's first class took a standardised exam at the beginning and the end of the Wikipedia course. Their test scores jumped significantly, she says, 'and that was without doing any preparation for the test at all. It was nice, in a school that believed that to pass a test you had to practise the content of the test, to be able to see a little bit of proof that by doing things with the language more broadly, scores go up.' The hard part, Thelmadatter says, is knowing what students are ready for. 'I started out getting them to write articles in English and putting them on Wikipedia. Some of those articles got tagged – which means other Wikipedians put labels on them saying they need to be redone. That's the last thing I want to happen, because it's demotivating.' So Thelmadatter revised her course. 'Instead, we now analyse articles to compare how something has been expressed in English and Spanish, and talk about the differences. Students can also upload photographs and put descriptions in various languages. And I have them translate from English to Spanish – so we talk about what makes a good Wikipedia article.' Once she has checked the students' work, it goes online, where it may be read by any of the site's 500 billion visitors. The use of Wikipedia in language education is spreading. LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager at the Wikipedia Foundation in San Francisco, says 'Thelmadatter is a pioneer in working with translation assignments with students to improve the quality of Wikipedia articles in non-English languages, and instructors in other countries have followed her lead. Translation assignments build students' vocabulary, language, and technical skills while also improving the free information available to people by adding content to Wikipedia.' Another dimension, notes Owain, is that the range of Wikipedia language encyclopedias can nurture a broader outlook. 'If we're looking at the conflict in Palestine, for example, we might be interested to see how the French view things. That gives us a broader perspective. If a language or an opinion is pushed into extinction, that's a step towards an Orwellian vision of one voice/one language overruling all. The writing of an article in Welsh, for me, is about a fight for survival,' he concludes. 'That's not only the survival of the Welsh language, but the survival of the rich diversity of the whole planet.' APRIL/MAY The Linguist 17

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